For Halloween this year, my spooky choice is a twisted fairy tale from the esteemed Neil Gaiman whose dark and whimsical tales are sure to please.
He once again tackles the Snow White story, but in a different angle from his The Sleeper and the Spindle tale, as this story is told from Snow White’s stepmother’s perspective and she is far from a wicked witch. Instead, the twist is that young Snow White is the evil one, and is a vampire who manipulates others. Plus, there is quite the erotica element to this tale, so it is for mature audiences only.
The story begins with Snow White’s father, the virile and handsome king, discovering a teenaged beauty and taking her as a lover and eventually as his second wife. She is only a decade older than her stepdaughter, a pretty but secretive girl, who stays away from her. One night the girl comes into her chambers and the new queen beckons her closer, anxious to get to know her. But Snow White bites her and runs off leaving the queen distraught and scared.
Soon the king begins to weaken and before he dies the queen sees that his body is covered head to toe with scars that had never been there before. We are to believe his daughter sucked the life right out of him, leaving the queen in command of the kingdom.
The queen makes the radical decision to banish the girl and instructs a hunter to kill her and remove her heart. But as Snow White is of demonic blood, she remains alive in the deep forest and grows into a beautiful young woman, despite her pulsing heart being strung up in the queen’s chambers. Snow White preys on the forest folk and a few appeal to the queen for help, who has some mild magical powers herself. The queen is able to fool Snow White into eating a poisoned apple and her body is covered by a crystal cairn by the dwarves she had been terrorizing.
The kingdom settles down peacefully for a few years until a creepy-ass prince, who harbors some dark desires, comes to visit. And this is where it gets good! How the prince “saves” Snow White is deliciously twisted and perverse. Some of the earlier erotica between the king and queen is tame, compared to what comes next.
While Gaiman’s tale is excellent, it is the art by Colleen Doran that makes this book stand out. She draws in an Art Nouveau style and takes inspiration from famed artists Harry Clarke and Aubrey Beardsley. Her art is reminiscent of stained glass windows with deep jewel blues and purples. She incorporates mandalas and nature into the backgrounds, so the illustrations are a feast for the eyes. That the book has a storybook look, just adds to the fairytale motif. An artist’s note at the end tells of her research and the artistic process of inking these exquisite pictures.
A delightfully creepy twist on the Snow White fairytale, that paired with the beautiful art makes this graphic novel a must-read!